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Cancer's Little Deaths

by Lisa Marie Brodsky

"Diseases are not interested in those who want to die." -- Lawrence Durell

Perhaps she wanted little deaths
throughout her life
but she never wanted it to last.
I'm a lot like her.
She suffered under the crush of each man's body,
looked down whenever she walked to the grocery store,
her three year old in tow.

Meeting people's eyes became an invitation
and everyone's pupils shone with that demonic intenet -
even old ladies who pinched my cheeks.
Don't touch her! she'd growl and pick me up
out of my stroller
then regret her knee-jerk reaction when the
old ladies would back away, alarmed and confused.
My hair absorbed her tears; pigtails pointy and wet at the ends.

When I was eleven, she lost her job
and I remember her throwing up from drink,
the mornings staring out the window at the busy birds,
cold coffee cup in hand.
She wanted to die then, no doubt,
but I'd come to her for help with homework
or ask her to make meatloaf
and she'd have to get up and claim her life
as her own.

Now she tells me at least cancer isn't
as bad as getting killed by a bus:
you have time.
I'd prefer neither, in fact, I grew to hate
her metaphors, but perhaps that's
how she coped with little deaths.
Maybe she's more of a poet than I,
Her mind whirling in scenarios and images.
I want to live in a world where my mother
doesn't think about death.
She wants to live in a world of two healthy lungs,
a healthy brain, no stray
thoughts of death or lung-crushing men
breaking into our house twenty-five years ago.
My hair is now a lustrous amber
combed through and straight
like a curtain on my life.


Posted on 08/11/2006
Copyright © 2022 Lisa Marie Brodsky

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Kristina Woodhill on 08/12/06 at 01:01 AM

Absolutely gripping.

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